Blog / Book of the Month / The Light of Christ Makes Some Glad Others Angry / Nehemiah 8 & Luke 4:16–30 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 23rd 2022 / Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Light of Christ Makes Some Glad Others Angry / Nehemiah 8 & Luke 4:16–30 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 23rd 2022 / Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Light of Christ Makes Some Glad Others Angry / Nehemiah 8 & Luke 4:16–30 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 23rd 2022 / Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 23rd 2022: Season of Epiphany / Nehemiah 8:1–3, 5–6, 8–10 & Luke 4:16–30, "The Light of Christ Makes Some Glad Others Angry."

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. …

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.  …

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. The witty comedic actor Leonard Rossiter (1926-1984) quipped “If ignorance is bliss why aren't more people happy,”[1] the truth is that lack of knowledge doesn’t produce actual happiness or peace. Ignorance may be a kind of bliss but it’s a dangerous one and it won’t give you lasting peace or true happiness. 

The central abiding theme of the season of Epiphany is the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God and that salvation is found in Him alone, this Good News is what brings happiness and peace in the face of all knowledge whether that knowledge be good or ill. Jesus is the light that shines into the ignorant darkness of the World: The Light that the darkness cannot overcome.[2] Now some have the Light of Christ Jesus shone upon them and they are glad while others have the Light of Christ Jesus shone upon them and they are angry. What does the Gospel of John say? “[This Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.”[3] So today we hear of two different crowds upon whom God shone forth His Light: In our Old Testament Reading we hear about the time of Nehemiah and the crowd of faithful men, women and children who hear God’s Law read to them by Ezra the Levitical priest who respond positively, and then in our Gospel Reading from Saint Luke the Physician we hear of the crowd of people in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth who listen to God’s Word read to them from the Prophet Isaiah by Jesus, who is God Himself, and they respond negatively. The first crowd weep over their sin and seek comfort from the LORD while the second crowd was filled with wrath and sought to throw Jesus off a cliff. They had hoped for miracles like the ones Jesus preformed in Capernaum but when they were shown the Truth, the Light of God promised in Isaiah, revealed before their eyes in the person of Christ Jesus they could not see the miracles that stood before them.

Hearing the truth can be hard and as we know from Scripture “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding,”[4] … “So [with the Psalmist we pray to the LORD saying,] teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”[5] Dear ones remember the Holy Bible, the Sacred Writings of its pages, are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.[6] And so it is that Pastors are charged with the task of devoting themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”[7]  Notice that Ezra in our Old Testament Reading along with the other Levitical Priests “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading,” this is teaching, this is preaching and this is what Jesus does in our Gospel in the synagogue in His Home town and this is what is done even today so that the one who publicly reads God’s Word, and the one who listens to the teaching and preaching and all who study earnestly receive the faith provided there with a repentant and thankful heart by the Grace of God. Dear ones receive this blessed gift as ones born not of flesh, nor the will of man, but of God: as ones who receive the Light of God shone upon them, as ones who believe in Jesus’ name, as one who can therefore hold fast to the right given to them to be called the Children of God.[8]  This is why each of us needs to have God first in our life just as we need a right understanding of who God is and what His Law and His Gospel are. No one will accomplish this alone in the dark.

Saint Paul in his letter to the Christians of Rome confesses, “if it had not been for the Law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[9] Do you think Paul enjoyed having his sin pointed out by the Word of God? Having the Light of God’s Law shone upon the sin you struggle with most is painful. The grief of it, the pain of it, the shame of it … yet today we live in mixed up World. For example Ezra in our Old Testament account would have read to the people the sixth commandment found in Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery,” and we Lutherans having the fullness of God Word in Scripture faithfully handed down to us and preserved by the working of the Holy Spirit believe teach and confess that this Commandment means “we should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honour each other.”[10] Our World today desires to live in darkness when it comes to this sin and many others, to live in ignorance of the sixth commandment, claiming that every manner of fickle and shameful sexual activity is not sin but blissful purity, the Prophet Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”[11]

Do you think Paul enjoyed having his sin of coveting pointed out to him by the Word of God? Having the Light of God’s Law shone upon the sin you struggle with most is painful. The grief of it, the pain of it, the shame of it … yet the repentant heart that receives the Law of God as good and wise and knows the blood of Christ Jesus, His very life, was shed, was given for the forgiveness of sin receives forgiveness and the shame, and pain, the grief is washed away. On the contrary if in dark-self-centred-pride a person who considers themselves shrewd and wise in their own eyes[12] disregards both the Law of God found in His Word and the gift of forgiveness handed to them by the nail pierced hand of the Risen Lord Jesus’ seeking rather to throw Jesus off a cliff; well then such a person is in darkness. And if they had once confessed Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, if they had once been baptized into Christ Jesus and treat forgiveness and God’s Word in this way then they are like ones who have wandered away from the Light of Christ into darkness.[13] Repentance followed by forgiveness is joy;[14] a wilfully ignorant life of sin is not bliss; and turning a blind eye to sin may “keep the peace,” but it is not a true peace.  Remember what Jesus says about true peace, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the World gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”[15]

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas known as the invisible killer and like I said we can often be so polite that we fail to point out sin, we fail to share God’s Word, the Law of God and when we fail to point it out we do not help others, we leave them breathing a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas in the darkness.

But Pastor if I go around pointing out sin people will think I’m judging them and Jesus says “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This is true: but remember you are judged by the Law of God, just as the people in the Book of Nehemiah were judged by God’s Law when Ezra read it to them and they heard his preaching. When the Judgment of the World is not in alignment with the Law of God, not running parallel with it, not a good and right reflection of it then you want first and foremost to be judged by the Law of God not by the Law of this World: For the Law of this World unhinged from the Law of God is a law and Judgment that will give you no peace, it is a judgment that brings nothing but cancelation and punishment with no forgiveness, never-ending penance with no hope of pardon. The Passage you are thinking of is from the Gospel of St. Matthew where Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Again how would you rather be judged? Would you rather be judged by the Law of God, that comes to you with grace love and mercy in the life death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, or would you rather be Judged by the law of the World that wants to throw Jesus off a cliff, and believes itself to be wise while in living in darkness?

Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew continues, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”[16] Think about this for a minute: Without the Law of God how could you even begin to see the log of sin in your own eye? Read the Ten Commandments daily, contemplate them, apply them to your life, pray about them, and demand that they be preached to you. Study the Small and Large Catechism and keep them ever before your eyes that you would run to your heavenly Father for the forgiveness His Son Jesus has won for your each and every time you find yourself in the darkness of sin. If you don’t attend to church, if you do not read, or have Scripture read to you how will the Light of God come to you? If you fail to read God’s Word or hear it will you not be in danger of ending up in the crowd that would rather see Jesus thrown off a cliff than receive the Light of His grace and mercy?  

While on the one hand we can be guilty of failing to share the Law of God with others, the Law of God we are selves desire to be judged by, the Law that brings us to weeping over or sin; on the other hand we can also be too polite when it comes to the Good News of Jesus and who He truly is, the Good News that brings us to joy over sin forgiven and life in the Light. In an effort to respect the beliefs of others or to not upset people with beliefs different from our own we are tempted to keep quiet about our faith in Jesus. We shut up our mouths keeping others in darkness. Martin Luther once observed that “The world is like a drunken peasant. If one helps him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off on the other side.”[17] We can be like this too. Don’t be like this when it comes to the Law and Gospel found in God’s Word. ‘But I am like that,’ you say. Take heart your forgiveness is in Christ Jesus. You, and Me all of us Christians “were all baptised into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”[18] We are all baptised into Christ Jesus and He did not fail to follow the Law of God, to teach and preach it, He also did not fail to embody the grace of God in forgiveness. Where we fail Christ Jesus has been and continues to be faithful.[19] He was willing to face death at every turn to do this precious work of faith and while our Gospel says that that day in His home town He was spared from being thrown of the cliff to His death, when His time did come and the hour of Jesus’ appointed death came for you upon the Cross of His crucifixion Jesus did not side-step the wages of sin.[20]  No as Saint Paul tells us this Jesus, “being found in human form, … humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted [His Son Jesus] and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[21]

Lastly take also the example of the Ezra, a man who sinned as we all sin, for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God,[22] a man who stood reading the Word of God, the Book of the Law, not knowing if “the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate,” would weep when they heard it or would seek to rise up against him and throw him off of a cliff. Each of you can be courageous in your Christian Life, in your life in Christ, and for each time your courage has failed and you found yourself slipping into the shadows of darkness there is forgiveness … but that forgiveness is not found in the World, that forgiveness is found only in Christ Jesus, for He is the Light of God who proclaim Good News to the poor, who recovers sight to the blind, who sets at liberty those who are oppressed, and who proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour,[23] It is Jesus who gives peace, He is the Truth, the Way and the Life.  Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Ricard W. Pound, Complied by, Quotations for the Fast Lane, McGill-Queen’s University Press 2013, Pg. 267.
[2] John 1:5
[3] John 1:10–11
[4] Psalm 111:10
[5] Psalm 90:12
[6] 2 Timothy 3:15
[7] 1 Timothy 4:13
[8] John 1:12–13
[9] Romans 7:7
[10] The Ten Commandments; The Explanation of the Sixth Commandment: Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Pg. 14.
[11] Isaiah 5:20
[12] Isaiah 5:21
[13] Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
[14] Luke 15:7
[15] John 14:27
[16] Matthew 7:1–5
[17] Fall, 1533 Martin Luther, Table Talk, Luther's Works, vol. 54, Concordia Publishing House 1967, pg. 111.
[18] 1 Corinthians 12:13
[19] Revelation 19:11
[20] Romans 6:23
[21] Philippians 2:8–11
[22] Romans 3:23
[23] Luke 4:18-19

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